Written by Kyuboem Lee Tuesday, 14 April 2015 15:03

Lately, I’ve been hearing the term “justice churches” to refer to those congregations that have chosen as one of their core goals the pursuit of social justice. Is this a helpful term?

Justice Church

Perhaps not, since implicit in the label may be the assumption that “justice churches” are departing from the core gospel ministry—that they are becoming “more justice than Jesus,” to use another turn of phrase.

Another assumption could be that pursuing justice, while laudable, should not properly be the main focus of a church’s work of gospel proclamation.

When ministry to the poor or solidarity with the oppressed are brought up, the first concern is that the preaching ministry or discipleship or teaching biblically faithful doctrine could be compromised.

Gospel Relating to Justice

How does the gospel relate to justice in such circles? (Let’s call them “gospel churches” but that might be a problematic label too, as outlined below.)

The most sophisticated answer I’ve heard is that social justice is an implication of the gospel, but not the gospel itself. The pursuit of justice flows from the gospel message, but the gospel proper is nothing more than the message of Jesus crucified, buried, and risen, that demands our faith. In other words, gospel ministry is word ministry, to be distinguished from deeds ministry.

 

Written by David Dunbar Thursday, 09 April 2015 13:05

For the most part Christians tend to think of prayer as our speech to God. The words we use may be audible or inaudible, but the direction is from us to God. We speak and he listens. The idea is that prayer is a response to the prior speaking of God to us objectively in creation, or in Christ and the Scriptures.

Prayer

The problem with this understanding is that it tends to lose the dynamic quality of an ongoing conversation between God and ourselves.

The thought is that God has already said what is necessary and important. Dallas Willard has termed this understanding of God’s relationship to believers as “Bible deism”:

Classical deism, associated with the extreme rationalism of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, held that God created his world complete and perfect and then went away, leaving humanity to its own devices. There was no individualized intervention in the lives of human beings, no miracles. Bible deism similarly holds that God gave us the Bible and then went away, leaving us to make what we could of it, with no individualized communication either through the Bible or otherwise (Hearing God, p. 107).

The Risks of Bible Deism

The risk in this approach is that we may lose a significant dimension of a mature spirituality. Think of the experience of being around small children who talk incessantly but do very little listening . . . how soon we yearn for conversation with an adult! Of course, some adults can put us through a similar ordeal, but we generally regard them as rude or narcissistic.

   

Written by R. Todd Mangum Tuesday, 07 April 2015 11:38

Probably because I’m serving as advisor for a DMin dissertation on a church plant that arose from the death (and closure) of the previous church, I may have a heightened sensitivity to signs of death and signs of life in ministerial organizations these days. My own home church has been through a lot; we’ve been seeking to make the missional turn for at least a dozen years now. We’ve had turmoil, turnover, leadership struggles, fits and starts, transition.

Church numbers

This past Sunday, my family of four arrived and went down to our “usual row,” only it was full; so we had to split up to all get seated. My son, now a seminary student here at BTS and himself quite astute to the “signs and signals of transition,” said with a grin, and fully tongue-in-cheek, “There’s too many people.” I said right out loud: “No, no, no . . . I’ll take this problem!” Later I said to the chairman of the elder board, that’s like saying, “The offering plate’s too full. No worries. We can get bigger plates!”

Numbers Are Not the Only Measurement

Now . . . I know that numbers are not the only measurement, and never the most significant measurement. In fact, part of the vision casting of our transition is about focusing on getting healthy as a church body; not getting bigger. We are not an attractional church, we’re a missional, incarnational church. All good stuff.

   

Written by R. Todd Mangum Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:34

I’ve heard the expression, It'll Pass since I was a kid – invariably from people at least the age of my grandparents; i.e., from people who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and enough of the trials of life to know that one of the greatest secrets to living life well, troubles and all, is recognizing its transiency has an upside. “It’ll pass.” Or, “This, too, will pass” (a line made famous, actually, by Abraham Lincoln).

Jesus Passion

What is temporary? What is permanent?

Much of wisdom, much of folly, is discerned by sorting out what is what and which is which in these two questions. Solomon got one or two whole inspired books in the Bible essentially pursuing these two questions.

This Passion Week, it might be good to focus our contemplations around these two questions – “What is temporary? What is permanent?” – in light of the pain and affliction and death, (only then) followed by resurrection, glory, and victory, that is encapsulated in the very rhythms of this week.

   

Written by R. Todd Mangum Tuesday, 31 March 2015 09:46

I understand that sometimes a person seeking to be faithful to the end has to “endure suffering” – put up with it; patiently accept it; close your eyes, suck it up, and wait for it – pray for it – to be over. Scripture sometimes talks about suffering just that way (e.g., 1 Pet 2:20).

Christ Suffered

But there’s another strand of biblical teaching on suffering, too, often overlooked, and rarely emphasized, especially in our day and in our culture. Several of us on the faculty were confronted with this oft-neglected strand recently when we went over to the Coptic church in our area, and met with and prayed with the leaders there in the wake of the martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christian men in Syria.

   

Written by Susan Disston Thursday, 26 March 2015 10:13

Sitting in a pew at Rosemont College in suburban Philadelphia, a young woman student looked up and around at the stained glass windows that rose high above the sanctuary floor. She saw saints who burned at the stake, who kneeled to clean Jesus’ brow, or who suffered the indignity of prison for their faith.

Woman Ministry Matter

As she looked more closely she was startled to discover that the saints were all women — St. Barbara, St. Cecilia, St. Ursula, St. Joan of Arc, St. Veronica, and St. Rosa of Lima.

Inspired by what she saw, then senior Laura Bunyard joined up with several other students to record the story of the windows and why they depicted twenty women saints instead of the disciples or other men. The students found out that the women were chosen by nuns in the late 1930’s and relate to Rosemont’s educational and religious mission. The nuns chose martyrs, mothers, royalty, and a woman who went on to become the first Native American saint.

   

Written by Philip Monroe Tuesday, 24 March 2015 09:04

From time to time, I get asked about good resources for individuals and families struggling with sexual addictions. So, here is a short annotated bibliography of my go-to print resources:

Sexual Addiction
  1. Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God About Sex, by John Freeman
  2. John’s book is just published but brings together a number of talks he has done over the last several decades representing www.harvestusa.org. This book is written to men who are struggling and hopeless. John writes to men who are hopeless and afraid of feeling even more shame after reading about their sexual struggles. This book oozes truth AND compassion. It is the place to start even if you are ambivalent about change.

  3. Sexual Sanity for Women (Ellen Dykas), and Sexual Sanity for Men (David White)
  4. Also employed at HarvestUSA, Ellen and David have developed devotional/workbook type books that are excellent resources for church-based accountability groups to read together. Both have short chapters, opportunities to reflect on questions and passages that relate to the topic being discussed. Again, you get the sense of hope and action without being overly focused on presenting the sure-fire 3 steps to ending an addiction (something that doesn’t work!).

   

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